Keepsake Wine Box

Keepsake Wine Box

My son, Clinton, asked me to build a Keepsake Box to put a bottle of wine in as part of his wedding ceremony. On their 1-year anniversary, he and his wife will open the box, retrieve the wine, and read the letters they wrote to one another (also sealed in the locked box).

I agreed and immediately began researching the how to build the box. Boxes are “easy” but this one needed to look special (no pressure, it’s just for the wedding). I wasn’t too concerned with being able to construct the box, mostly what concerned me was the finish. Finishing makes or breaks a project. After looking through hundreds of publications in my woodworking library, an article by Mac Wentz in issue #105 (January 2004) of American Woodworker caught my attention.

The box(es) in the article were attractive, buildable, and the author suggested finishes that were simple but elegant. The proportions of the American Woodworker box scaled well to my wine box requirements (not quite Golden Ratio, but close). It also accommodated a lock which would be used to seal the box at the ceremony.

Every weekend and evening I could spare went into the construction of the box to get it finished on time. I’m happy with the results and glad I was able to get it completed on time. I learned a lot. It’s great to build things for people you care about; they can have this for the rest of their lives.

Miter Attachment for Crosscut Sled

Image of the crosscut sled with the miter attachment in place.

The first, and maybe only, accessory I plan for my new crosscut sled is the miter attachment. I finished building it today; it looks good and works great.

This project has been sitting on the shelf for a long time and I’m happy to have gotten back to it and finished it. It’s especially nice to get such good results.

Now I’m moving on to assembling (and learning to use) my box joint jig.

Table Saw Cross Cut Sled

Crosscut Sled

For years—okay, a decade (maybe more)—I’ve wanted a cross cut sled for my table saw. It sounds easy; why not just stick some wood together and get on with it? Right? Well, once you start thinking about it, it’s a complicated build.

A piece of plywood (3/4″ for rigidity) to make the base sled. Some designs use 2×6’s and 2×4’s for the front and rear fences. How do I square the rear fence to the sled? It goes on and on! How does one decide what design and what materials to use to build the thing? There are great designs that don’t fit my needs and I didn’t feel confident enough to modify the designs for myself.

Then I came across a design for a Cross Cut / Miter Sled by Nick Ferry on YouTube. Not only does he use materials I find quite satisfactory (Baltic birch plywood and Kreg hardware) but he uses a squaring method (5-cut method by William Ng; Ng is a genius…watch all his YouTube stuff) to square up the rear fence.

So, I found myself at the point where I had a design and construction method I liked and no other excuses not to build the thing. Well, in that situation I had to build it, of course. The pictures in the album above show the build without the miter attachment accessory. I’ll build the miter attachment accessory next.

Anyway, once I completed the cross cut sled, I was able to tune it to < 0.002″ over 22″ accuracy. That’s way more accurate than I was expecting and I’m very happy with the results. Also, as an added bonus, Wendy (my wife), made the caution decals for the sled. They take the project to a whole new level of professional quality.

Ammo Can Storage Rack Completed

Ammo Can Rack Base & Install

I got a little time off at the end of this year and decided to finish the Ammo Can Storage Rack installation and clean/organize my Man Cave a little better. The clutter in there was driving me crazy!

This post completes the two previous posts (Ammo Can Storage Rack and Ammo Can Storage Rack Update) on the Ammo Can Storage Rack project. The process has taken almost two years to complete. A lot of my projects get shelved for more important things. There process is fine with me as long as I get back to them and finish them at some point.

One thing that kept me from getting back to this project was the amount of time it would take to finish it and that the final steps couldn’t be done in small increments. It wasn’t possible for me to be sawing up a project and applying string and top coat in my small workshop at the same time on different projects.

But, I’m real happy with the results and you can see them in the pictures above. All-in-all it took me about four days to complete this final phase of the project, relabel all the ammo cans and tidy up the Man Cave. Now I plan to install more shelving above the Ammo Can Racks for more books (I’m just about out of shelf space again).

6-Pistol Rack

6-Pistol Rack

It has been three years in the making but I finally finished my handgun rack. It was substantially complete with it back in March 2015 but I never liked the solutions I was using for the gun slots.

I tried using CA glue to attach hook & loop (Velcro®) with the loop side exposed and the hook side glued to the wood. That didn’t work. It didn’t adhere well and it wasn’t very good padding. That’s when I shelved it to research new ideas.

Over the next couple of years I thought of different padding materials and different adhesives. I moved toward using felt early on but I was always concerned with the adhesive bleeding through the fabric and, therefore, nullifying the padding effect. The fabric would be like sandpaper once the glue set up.

Another issue was that I didn’t feel like I was capable of cutting fabric at a consistent width to match the width of the plywood edge to which it would be adhered. During this time my wife taught me how she uses an Olfa® rotary cutter and a straightedge to cut strips of fabric with consistent widths. That problem was solved.

Next, on Tested.com, I saw how Adam Savage glued fabric (and foam) with 3M Super 77 spray adhesive. The adhesive is sprayed on both pieces being bonded together and it has a low absorption rate on fabrics. It’s the perfect solution for what I was doing. Since it works great on foam, too, it will help me on another languishing project where I have to glue pieces of rubber foam together.

Finally, on McMaster–Carr (wonderful web site), I found wool felt in different thicknesses. I was able to get a 12″ x 72″ x 3/16″ thick piece of wool felt and, by my reasoning, it would be thick enough to prevent the adhesive from bleeding through. In actuality I found that the adhesive would work just as well on thinner felt but I’m happy with the results of the felt I used this time.

It took a long time but I didn’t give up on this project even while it was shelved and I was working on others. It’s very rewarding to finish this project and get the great results.

Modeling Components with Fusion 360

Hot Wire Foam Cutter (underside – v9 unfinished).

I’m using Autodesk Fusion 360 to model the Hot Wire Foam Cutter I’m building. Usually I use Sketchup to design my projects. Sketchup is simple and straightforward which makes it quick to model all the parts and then make build drawings with its included Layout application.

But there are a few reasons I’m shifting to Fusion 360:

  1. Fusion 360 is free for me to use; Autodesk has made the full-featured software free for hobbyists like me to use.
  2. I need to use software that goes from concept (3D CAD) to production (CAM) in order to use my CNC Router; Fusion 360 does that extremely well.
  3. The projects I’ve been designing require me to outsource many of the parts to fabricators; they all use Autodesk software and Fusion 360 allows me to be compatible with their workflows.
  4. To be honest, Fusion 360 does 2D drawings much better way than Sketchup with Layout. It cuts down on the time it takes me to go from design to building.
  5. It has more materials and renders more elegant images of my models. When I show them to people it’s much more impressive and requires less imagination on their part to understand the concepts I’m presenting.

Here is a model (with a comparison photo) I made in Fusion 360 of the main transformer for the Hot Wire Foam Cutter.

Photo of Main Transformer.


Model of Main Transformer.

Man Cave Book Shelves

I have a lot of books that I enjoy reading, re-reading, and referencing time and again. The problem is, I have a lot of books and no adequate place to organize them well. So, I end up with lots of piles of books and double rows of books on each shelf of my cheap, freestanding bookshelves.

The shelves you buy in the store have a couple of problems:

  1. They’re made with cheap, low-quality materials that can’t properly support the weight of the books, and
  2. Their size is limited for safety reasons; not too tall, not too wide, etc.

I’ve often wanted to install built-in-place custom wall shelving to hold all the books but there are considerable financial limitations to that solution. It would be quite expensive to remove, modify or replace the carpeting to accommodate built-in-place shelves. There would also be sheetrock and cove molding work to be performed.

I could probably perform the sheetrock and cove molding work, but I’d have to contract the carpet work. Also, the amount of material necessary to properly complete the work would be up to $2,000, maybe more. That’s not an amount of money I am willing to drop into this project. I haven’t been able to convince myself to do it.

One day I was chatting with my son and, knowing I’m a bibliophile in search of a good book shelf, he sent me a link to an article about Neil Gaiman’s home library. It blew me away and I looked at the pictures with my mouth hanging open. The books were floor to ceiling on the shelves! The shelves looked great but they weren’t typical, something was different about them.

It was clear that Neil’s shelves were more about the books and less about the shelves. Often, built-in-place shelves are built to be showy and are rigid and inflexible in their size to accommodate different book sizes/types. For days I kept going back to the article to enviously scan through all the pictures. As I repeatedly viewed those pictures, I realized the shelves were constructed using shelf standards and brackets.

This fact had not been immediately evident when I first saw the photos. The shelves had been skillfully constructed to hide the shelf brackets. This was the solution I had been looking for! I didn’t want cheesy, cheap shelves on my wall and I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars to avoid that problem.

I researched shelving standards & brackets and decided on Knape and Vogt brand 180 series in silver with 10-inch deep brackets. Their are a lot of options with their shelving and their web site was very useful in helping me design my shelves to replicate Neil’s shelves. The best place I found to supply the shelving was Woodworker Express. They had all the parts including the special screws to mount the standards to the wall.

Since I’m an electrician by trade, I decided to 1-up Neil by putting LED lighting on my shelves. I went with the excellent Diode LED Fluid View 24VDC Tape Light in 2700K and used their innovative 100W in-wall switch/driver combo to power them. To distribute the power to each shelf I built a custom wiring harness with Diode LED’s 16 AWG 2-conductor cable and used barrel connectors with pigtails at each shelf to allow me to disconnect the shelves from the power harness in order to remove or relocate the shelf whenever I needed to do so.

To build the shelves I went with red oak veneer plywood and solid red oak (all from Home Depot) to trim the edge making the lip which hides the shelf brackets and gives me a place to mount the LED tape lighting. To stain the wood I chose General Finishes (Nutmeg) Gel Stain and for the topcoat I chose General Finishes Arm-R-Seal Urethane Topcoat (Satin). I applied one coat of stain and then put on three coats of the topcoat. The results were better than anything I’ve done previously and I’m very happy with it.

The project cost just over $700 to build including the lighting which is considerably less than my projected budget for the built-in-place shelves. Check out the build photos below for to see step-by-step construction of the shelves:

View post on imgur.com

Goat Ranch Cabin 2-Door (short) Wall Cabinet

Goat Ranch 2-Door (short) Wall Cabinet

Goat Ranch 2-Door (short) Wall Cabinet

Finished the 2-door wall cabinet and the 2-door wall cabinet (short) before I went on vacation. This short cabinet is for above the stove. Since all the wall cabinets are complete I started making sample finish pieces for Wendy to choose a finish she likes.

She has decided on the clear finish that shows the wood. The wood has a blonde color after three coats of top-coat. I’m happy with it, too. I’ll go ahead and start putting coats of sealer and top-coats on the cabinets while I start the lower cabinets. I have to complete my build drawings first…shouldn’t take long.

Goat Ranch Cabin 2-Door Wall Cabinet

Goat Ranch 2-Door Wall Cabinet

Goat Ranch 2-Door Wall Cabinet

Now that I’m getting closer to completing the construction of the 1-door wall cabinet I need to start my 2-door wall cabinet. The bugs should be worked out of my building methods and it should only be a question of doubling the smaller build.

When I made mistakes on the smaller cabinet I was able to develop techniques to avoid them thereafter. Some minor changes to the doors needed to be performed in Sketchup and I’m processing those 3D models into build drawings now. If the rain holds off this week I’ll be able to get the additional materials I need before the weekend to start this part of the build.

After this one, I’ll move on to the cabinet bases. They are big and a little cumbersome. At some point I’ll also have to plan on painting all these cabinets. That will be the first time I use my HVLP sprayer…guess I need to read up on that, too.

Goat Ranch Cabin 1-door Wall Cabinet

Goat Ranch 1-Door Wall Cabinet

I clumsily started building the wall cabinets for the Goat Ranch Cabin. The cabinet I chose to begin with is the smallest of all the cabinets I’m building. There are two reasons I chose this one: 1) I can relatively quickly build it and find any design issues, and 2) I can practice the setup and cuts on a small scale before I get to the larger stuff.

By “clumsily started” I mean I’ve found a problem with one of the methods I was using to suspend the shelves. I’ve used the technique before but, for some unknown reason, it’s not working for me on this project. The result was that I damaged one of the cabinet sides to the point that it will have to be re-cut. There were several mistakes in that side piece which made me decide to re-cut it. It was just too much of a mess.

The design is solid, though; no changes will be needed there. Aesthetically speaking, I think that I’ll add some edge banding on the “face edges” of the cabinet to hide the plywood ends. At first, since this is for the cabin, I wasn’t worried about that. But, it’s just one of those things that, I think, will bug me for years to come if I don’t do it. It’ll look more professional with the edge banding.

P.S. — I just call it the Goat Ranch because the previous owner had planned to raise goats there. We don’t have any goats.

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